Ya gotta love family stories. How they grow over the years into myths.
But in my family, the deer cookie story stayed pretty simple, because the circumstances were blissfully enjoyable and simple.
On a limited budget, my parents still liked to take the family on outings. So Mom would pack up a huge homemade picnic, we’d pile in the station wagon and head to Skyline Drive or the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Virginia mountains. They’d stop periodically to let us four kids run off some excess energy. Well, three of us, anyway. I always remember my sister Nancy sitting on a rock wall scowling because she was stuck in a car with her dorky family.
When everyone was sufficiently hungry, we’d stop by the side of the road and have a feast – sandwiches, fruit, chips, deviled eggs and brown sugar cookies. One fine fall day, while my brother and I were having a cherry pit spitting contest from the top of the picnic table, Dad disappeared down the hill for a little while. He came up grinning, with a Styrofoam cup in his hand. Inside, three hemlock seedlings about three inches tall. Now, as a forester by training, my father knew it was illegal to remove the trees from the park. But he couldn’t resist – had the perfect places picked out in the yard for his ill-gotten booty.
“If a ranger comes by, I’m gonna have to drink this son-of-a-bitch,” he said, looking down at the murky water in the cup.
We were just digging into the brown sugar cookies when my mother issued a huge Shhh. We looked up, and a doe was tentatively approaching the picnic table. My brother, acting on instinct, held out his cookie. The doe nibbled it right out of his hand and stood waiting for more. A family of six has never been quieter, as one after another we each fed a cookie to the deer. On a sugar high, she turned and strolled off and the six of us just stared at each other.
From then on, Mom’s brown sugar cookies became deer cookies. And the hemlocks? Two of them now tower 25 feet above our heads in the backyard.
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups sifted flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup confectioners sugar
In a mixer, cream sugar, brown sugar and butter. Blend in egg and vanilla. Combine flour, salt and soda. Mix into creamed mixture. Add nuts. Chill dough for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Form dough into balls, roll in sugar and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten dough with the bottom of a glass. Bake 10-12 minutes. Cool completely.
For icing, bring the brown sugar and cream to a boil, reduce heat to medium and stir constantly for four minutes. Remove from heat and beat in confectioners sugar until smooth. Reheat icing on low heat if it gets too thick while frosting cookies.